Twenty-two years ago, Florine Rosenfield and her husband made plans to be buried next to their close friends, the Schreibmans. The two couples went to Eternal Light Memorial Gardens on the western edge of Boynton Beach, where they purchased four spaces in the same plot.
By last year, Rosenfield was the only one left of the foursome. But at her husband's funeral last July, she noticed he wasn't being buried in the space he'd purchased. In fact, someone else had already been interred there.
It dawned on Rosenfield that her husband's final resting place — and, eventually, hers too — would be next to strangers instead of their friends as they'd planned. After a year of battling the cemetery, the 85-year-old is now suing for emotional and psychological distress.
"She's torn up by it," her attorney, Ortavia Simon, says. "Can you imagine being married to your husband for many years of your life and then all of a sudden he leaves you and you're fighting with the cemetery about where he's buried? She's absolutely devastated. She cries every time she talks about it."
A lawyer for the cemetery did not immediately return New Times' call seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, after Rosenfield complained last year, company representatives provided her with copies of two contracts plus the one she'd kept. In the second and third contracts, the burial space they'd purchased had been crossed out and replaced with another — C4 instead of D4. The third contract included her husband's initials, "J.R.," next to the change.
But Rosenfield says she and her husband never modified their contract. After she filed a complaint with the state's Division of Funeral, Cemetery, and Consumer Services, the cemetery turned over another form, an Interment Order and Authorization, in which the company said she had authorized her husband's burial in C4. Again, she says, she never signed off on the change.
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"We believe they caught the mistake years ago and someone at the cemetery tried to cover it up," Simon says.
"And then once our client started to make a lot of noise about it, we believe they created another forged document in order to satisfy funeral services and to also insulate themselves from liability."
He says he has hired experts who will testify that the handwriting, which he describes as kindergarten-level, is not Rosenfield's or her husband's.
Rosenfield's suit was filed this past May in federal court. The cemetery's attorneys had the case moved to the Palm Beach County Circuit Court and then back to federal court this month.
"To have to relive this over and over again with the cemetery — to essentially express a conscious disregard for her rights and her and her husband's wishes — is an absolute devastation and tragedy," Simon says.